Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Bosnian Journalist Aida Cerkez; Interview with WestExec Advisors Co-Founder and Managing Partner Michele Flournoy; Russian Protests; Interview With Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 09, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's now a race against time to boost Ukraine's military defenses, as Russia tries to close in on Kyiv, the latest from

former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Then: Putin has made it a crime, but thousands of Russians are protesting this war. Leonid Volkov, chief of staff to Russia's jailed opposition

leader Alexei Navalny, joins me.

And the last time Europe saw anything like this was during the 1990s' Balkans War. Bosnian journalist Aida Cerkez joins us with a message to the

Ukrainian people.

Also ahead:

MICHELE FLOURNOY, FORMER U.S. UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I do think the collective sanctions from the entire transatlantic community and other

countries in Asia will have a devastating impact on the Russian economy.

Former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy talks to Walter Isaacson about the latest moves on the ground.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that children are buried under the wreckage after Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital in the

besieged southern city of Mariupol. He again called for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. And while that is unlikely, NATO nations are working against the

clock to get weapons to the Ukrainian defenders.

Despite repeated promises, Russia's so-called humanitarian corridors are not fully working. And civilians are bearing the brunt of the artillery

attacks on their homes, on their schools, shops, hospitals and other infrastructure.

The United Nations says at least 500 have been killed, many more wounded, and two million have fled across borders to safety. While none of the

negotiations between the two sides have produced any meaningful results yet, a high-level meeting is expected in Turkey tomorrow between the

Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers, but expectations remain low.

Now, for more, the Ukrainian former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk joins me from there.

And we're not saying exactly where you are, but thank you for joining us.

Can I first ask you about what the president tweeted today? And that is images of this terrible attack on a hospital. Children are trapped in the

rubble, we understand. Can you tell us any more about that, but, also, on the effect those kinds of attacks have on people there?


Every scene you see, what is happening right now in Ukraine, this is the biggest tragedy, and this is the biggest war after the Second World War,

and President Putin, who is the war criminal committing the crimes against humanity.

Could you imagine that Russian military, Russian troops just bombarded maternity hospital? So they are killing innocent people in the center of



YATSENYUK: So, that's the real disaster.

And we have to stop these atrocities. And we have to stop this new Hitler, which is President Putin.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, can I ask you, because you have seen -- I mean, obviously, your president and many of your officials call for a no-fly

zone. NATO has flatly rejected that.

But there is a race and a rush to get weapons to your forces in the right places in time. From what you know, is that happening.

YATSENYUK: Well, I'm not in the position to disclose any information, and that -- this would be for us, but not for the good of Ukraine.

But, first of all, let me commend the efforts of the U.S. administration, President Biden and of the entire free world. You managed to stay united.

You managed to impose the toughest ever sanctions on Russia.

But please don't stop. We just have not to deter Putin. We have to stop his atrocities. He wants to grab Ukraine. He wants to take over Ukraine. And

the next target would be the free world, the Eastern Europe and even the United States, because he is doing everything to undermine the free world.

In terms of the supply of the lethal weapon, we ask for the no-fly zone. But we have a number of additional options on the table.


So, my appeal to all my friends in the free world, please send fighter jets to Ukraine, please send anti-missile systems to Ukraine, please send

surface-to-air missiles. We need to defend Ukraine. And you have the chance. And you have these capabilities to supply all these lethal weapon

to protect Ukraine and Ukrainians and actually to protect your citizens to.

AMANPOUR: Well, we're hearing that those precise weapons are being discussed right now, including fighter jets.

Even though there was a whole muddle between Poland and the U.S. about that episode, we understand there are some other talks going on about how to

resolve this issue. And the British have said they're sending more air defense equipment.

What I don't understand -- and I wonder whether you agree -- that the Russian assault, the war, the invasion, has not gone to plan by any stretch

of the imagination, according to what it -- what he obviously intended. Of course, he's resorted to doing the gruesome alternative of bombarding


But can you explain why they are not moving faster to encircle Kyiv and why they have not made so many strategic gains, other than in the south?

YATSENYUK: I fully share your take.

Putin always miscalculates, and Putin always make mistakes with Ukraine. He lives in 2004, when he believed that Ukraine -- that he can easily grab

Ukraine, in 2014, during the Revolution of Dignity, and in 2022. So he underestimated a strong resolve of Ukrainian military and of Ukrainian


He didn't expect these kinds of very strong unity of the Western world. He didn't anticipate these kinds of severe, tough and strong sanctions, which

will undermine Russian economy. I want to be very clear. We have to undermine Russian financial, energy and economic sector. Russian people

have to feel the pain.

They need to feel the pinch, as they support this dictator of the modern world, which is President Putin. So he underestimated all of us. And,

mainly, he underestimated Ukrainian nation and Ukrainian people. We are fighting for our freedom. We are fighting for our country, and he is

invading an independent and free nation and free people.

He will never succeed.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken has said that he's absolutely convinced that Putin will fail and he's made a

massive strategic mistake.

But, of course, that could be long term. Most analysts seem to think that the sheer numbers that Russia has will eventually grind down your forces. I

wonder if you fear that.

YATSENYUK: So, it's not about math, Christiane. It's about strong resolve. This is about the will of the people. This is about whether Ukrainian have

guts or no.

And we convinced the entire world and we showed to the entire world that we have will, we have guts, and we are fighting like hell. So, please help us.

You are doing a lot for Ukraine. Please do more.

AMANPOUR: You are absolutely right. The guts that your president and your people and your forces have demonstrated in this has really stunned the

world and brought the world together on Ukraine's side. I mean, it's not an exaggeration to say that. The world really has responded to your country's


Your president, when asking for the no-fly zone, said: "Close the sky right now. Stop the killings. You have power," he says to the West, "but you seem

to be losing humanity."

Are your leadership getting fed up? Or -- I mean, that's quite a charge, when I know he's frustrated, I know he's beleaguered, and I know he's under

incredible attack and pressure. But do you think the world is losing humanity right now?

YATSENYUK: He's under the pressure. The president is defending the Constitution and defending the country.

So -- but, in my humble opinion, I believe that the world realized -- the world realized what Putin is really about. The world realized that there is

no more appeasement. The world realized that Putin is a real aggressor, that Putin is a real dictator, and that Putin is a NASA-style president of


So -- but, again, my appeal to the world, we are the fortress. We are the front row. We are the front line of real fight for freedom and democracy.

We are defending you, every single nation of the free world.


So, as you help us, we defend you. So, please do more.

And in terms of, for example, energy, we miss an additional set of sanctions in terms of embargo on oil and gas. It is doable. And I really

commend the decision of the U.K. and the U.S. government to do this right now. It's time for the European Union to do the same. And they can make it.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you?

Because in terms of the civilians, again, this is just a gruesome alternative that Putin has decided. And we have seen it before. We have

seen it, as everybody remembers, in Aleppo, in Syria, in Grozny, in Chechnya, and...


AMANPOUR: Yes, and elsewhere.

And these so-called humanitarian convoys, just in the name of your -- in the words of your president, seem to be cynical -- cynical things to throw

-- to try to keep the world off his back at the moment, but they don't seem to be working.

And, tomorrow, there is a high-level meeting expected between the two foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine. Do you expect anything to come out

of that?

YATSENYUK: Here is the scene, as far as I see, what is the Russian playbook.

They want to kill more, to grab more, to bombard more, to shell more, to get more civilian casualties, to -- actually to kill more Ukrainians they

can even count, in order, in Russian position, to have so-called better negotiating position.

Could you imagine how cynical these people are? What kind of inhuman beings they are? So I don't trust in any kind of real talks right now. The time

will come when real talks will be on the radars, real talks between the best in Ukraine and Russia.

And, as for now, the only chance to launch these talks is, the key precondition is Russia has to fully withdraw all Russian troops and

military. Russia has to get rid of Ukraine. Russia has to leave Ukraine. This is the key precondition. And only afterwards we can have real talks.

For today, I believe that this is a kind of small screen. This Putin, he's so cynical. He's telling you about some kind of humanitarian corridors.

They open these corridors. They allow people to leave the city and then they start shelling of these corridors.


YATSENYUK: This is the crimes against humanity. These criminals have to sit behind the bars in the International Criminal Court.

AMANPOUR: And, indeed, that investigation is already under way from the ICC. They're starting their investigation.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

And on those sanctions, today, the European slapped a fourth round on an already beleaguered Russian economy, while the United States in the U.K. as

you just heard, say they will soon stop buying Russian oil.

Amazon, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Starbucks have all now joined the legion of companies ceasing operations within that country. But what are Russians

being told about their rapidly transforming lives because of the war next door?

Joining me now is Leonid Volkov. He is chief of staff to Russia's jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.

Leonid Volkov, welcome to the program.



AMANPOUR: We see that most Russians, at least in the public statements, they parrot what Putin is saying, and they absolutely refuse to accept that

their country is bombarding civilians.

Do you think they know it? Or they don't know it? Are they that blinded to actually what's going on in terms of the information they're getting?

VOLKOV: Well, first of all, I would deny these very statements.

What Putin is doing to the Ukraine is not supported by a majority of Russian people. And if you appraise like public statements made by opinion

leaders, you will see a clear and vast majority of public statements against this war, against this military adventure, which was unprovoked and

has just no sense and is, of course, like, beyond any comprehension.

So, like, for instance, 8,000 scientific workers, like scientists and teachers, high school teachers, signed an open letter to stop this

invasion, this war immediately, while only 600 like supported Putin in this war. This is when people are actually threatened to be imprisoned for up to

15 years for anti-war protests and for speaking up against the war.

Even with these threats, and even when the government is actually like trying to find some voices in its support, a vast majority of people are

speaking up again.


Now, of ordinary people, there are still many of them who are like victims of the propaganda who are watching the television, and who tend to believe

what television is saying. They're not a majority anymore. I would estimate it like between 30 and 40 percent.

This is, yes, still Putin's support base, but it is vanishing, first because people try to think more about, like, what's actually going on. We

try to work with them. We try any possible channel of communication to reach out to these people, and, of course, also because of the burden of

sanctions that started to make it so it's now, as we call it, like a fight between the fridge and the TV set, and the fridge will win.


OK, so let me ask you, because this is what Navalny has just posted on Twitter: "Let us at least not become a nation of frightened, silent people,

of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by are obviously insane czar."

So you're trying to reach people. He's trying to reach people. We heard from the CIA director that, according to us estimates, some 13,000 to

14,000. Russians have been rounded up and detained for protesting. That's quite a lot, when you consider it in this -- when they have criminalized

it, when they face 15 years in jail, and the like.

Do you believe, though, what very few people believe, that the Russian people will be the one to stop Putin, either one way or the other? People

just don't believe that that's likely.

VOLKOV: I don't believe that there is a silver bullet that could stop Putin.

I believe that pressure has to be applied on all possible -- from all possible directions. What Ukrainian people are doing defending their cities

and stopping the aggression is very important. What the world community is doing, imposing sanctions, especially personal sanctions, targeting Putin's

assets and the values of his oligarchs, is extremely important.

But what the Russian people from inside the country are doing to protest is also very important. And the combined offensive from these three directions

could, at the end of the day, well, yield the victory.

And I wouldn't say that, like, only one of these three things matters and the other two are not relevant. They work all together.

AMANPOUR: Tell me how Alexei Navalny is and how he gets to tweet from prison. What is his health? What is his morale right now?

VOLKOV: Alexei Navalny, he's right now on trial. And there is a very funny kangaroo court right there in prison.

So, the judge, the investigator, the secretary, the prosecutor, all the witnesses are being brought to his prison. And they stage the court right

there. He's facing up to 15 years imprisonment over embezzlement charges. They pretend, they allege that he has appropriated the donations people

have sent him to run the anti-corruption investigations.

So, and the timing for this trial is not random. It was handpicked, so this trial disappears from public opinion, because it's overshadowed by the war,

very naturally it would be. The first day of trial was the first day of war. And it was, of course, like, orchestrated by the Kremlin


Now, because there's a trial, we have daily contact to Alexei's -- his lawyers. So the lawyers at least allowed to visit him. They are daily to be

in touch with him. And so he is able to pass his notes and his statements to the outer world.


I want to ask you whether you also -- and, obviously, Navalny and the team, they worked very hard to uncover corruption. That was one of his things,

right, just like in Ukraine with Zelenskyy.

So, Kozyrev, the former Russian foreign minister, has tweeted. And I think it's really, really interesting because a lot of people can't figure out

why the feared Russian military seems to be bogged down, things are not going according to plan, and everybody's trying to figure it out.

This is what Andrei Kozyrev says.

He said, blaming it on corruption: "The Kremlin spent the last 20 years trying to modernize its military. Much of that budget was stolen and spent

on mega-yachts in Cyprus. But as a military adviser, you cannot report that to the president. So they reported lies to him instead, Potemkin military."

Do you do you think that that's accurate?

VOLKOV: This is very accurate, and this is something that Anti-Corruption Foundation investigations have provided very solid proof for during the

last 10 years. Indeed, Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation has run many investigations on how military budgets are actually spent.


Well, our defense minister, Sergey Shoygu, Putin's right hand, is also an owner of an enormous palace nearby Moscow built in such a Chinese pagoda

style, very funny. Have a look.

And then the (INAUDIBLE) Viktor Zolotov, he used to -- he used to appropriate like pretty much like 50 percent of procurement costs when

buying like food supplies for the National Guard, and so on and so on, Russian army as well, it's a part of the Russian society. And Russian

society under Putin is being run on corruption.

So the reason for any project, the reason for like building something or like doing something is corruption. The most remarkable monument is Armata,

the latest Russian tank, which like billions have been spent on this tank. It has been show -- it was showcased at many military shows.

It's enormously strong. It's much better than any weapon that Ukraine has. Only it exists in one piece. There is -- they managed to build only one of

them, and because of the corruption, they build this...



VOLKOV: ... tank, which one piece of it exists.

On paper, they already should have produced 120 of them by the end of 2021. But they failed to produce 119. The one is good to show it to Putin, to

show how it is strong. It's indeed very modern. And if they had 120 of Armatas, they probably, unfortunately, would be already in the streets of

Kyiv, only that they stole this money.

AMANPOUR: And just quickly, Zelenskyy believes and some are questioning who actually Putin sees. He's -- is he in his own bubble? Who's he talking

to? Who's who's advising him? Who's telling him what's going on?

In the famous film "Scarface," Al Pacino calls this getting high on your own supply. Do you think that that's an issue? Is Putin getting accurate

battlefield information? Are his generals standing up to him? I mean, he told the mothers yesterday that there were no conscripts in Ukraine, and

then, today, they had to retract that, say, oh, we have discovered some conscripts in Ukraine.

And, apparently, there are tens of thousands, according to the U.S.

VOLKOV: This is indeed very true about Putin's bubble and getting and falling victim to his own propaganda. Putin doesn't use Internet. He only

relies on those like red files that Secret Service brings to him every day.

And over the last 20 years, they, of course, have learned what kind of information in these red files pleases the boss, and what makes him upset.

And they don't want to make him upset. So he has been fed this -- his own propaganda for the last 20 years. And this affected his judgment.

But if I may hypothesize a little bit, I think COVID was -- also contributed dramatically to the change or situation, because, over the last

two years, he self-isolated himself in his bunker. So, reportedly, anyone who wants to meet him has to undergo two weeks of mandatory quarantine,

mandatory self-isolation...


VOLKOV: ... which narrowed his circle of advisers even more.

So, and for businessmen, for his businessman friends, it's probably just not acceptable to spend two weeks on self-isolation just to meet Putin for

a short while. So, very naturally, his generals, who have plenty of time when there is no war, could afford this. And so his circle of communication

very much shifted towards the military.

So now it's about four or five generals who indeed feed him the news he wants to get. And, of course, his judgment is very much impaired by this.

AMANPOUR: Wow. It's really fascinating to watch and, of course, so painful for Ukraine.

Leonid Volkov, thank you very much for joining us.

Now, the last time war like this engulfed Europe was in the Balkans throughout the 1990s. The city of Sarajevo spent 46 months under siege, the

longest in modern history. Like Ukraine is being punished by its powerful neighbor for choosing a democratic pro-European future, Bosnia was punished

by the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic for choosing the same when the former Yugoslavia collapsed at the end of the Cold War.

And as history repeats itself today in Ukraine, the Bosnian journalist Aida Cerkez wrote a moving letter to the people there.

"In the dark times ahead of you, you will lose faith sometimes and be overwhelmed by exhaustion. But I'm writing to you from the future. And I'm

telling you will prevail, just as we did."


Aida Cerkez is joining me now from Sarajevo.

And welcome to the program.

We were covering the war together, me as a foreign correspondent, you as a local Bosnian doing your very, very best in bringing the story to the

world. And I was so moved to read your words to the people of Ukraine.

What did you think when you -- in the morning when you woke up to see that this invasion had started?

AIDA CERKEZ, BOSNIAN JOURNALIST: I woke up. I sat on my bed.

First of all, good evening.

I woke up. I sat on my bed and I thought, OK, is this really happening again? And it felt like time is not linear, but circular, and I went to

full circle, and back to square one. It's not in my hometown. It's in somebody else's hometown.

And I was up for days thinking, have we actually learned? Has anything changed in those 30 years? And maybe the circumstances are different, but

something -- the world has learned something.

AMANPOUR: Well, you wrote about it.

CERKEZ: Now they're supplying the Ukrainians with weapons, so they can defend themselves.

AMANPOUR: Yes, exactly.

And that's part of your letter, how the world looked differently at Ukraine than it did when you left Bosnia alone for all those years. We have asked

you to read a little bit, an excerpt, if you wouldn't mind doing that.

CERKEZ: Sure. I have it here in just a second.

I was thinking about what to send them, so I wrote this.

"It's not my warm socks or my jacket or my warm boots that you most need now. It's my now 30-year-old T-shirt imprinted with a slogan that kept me

up during the 1,425 days that Bosnian Serbs fired at will and held my city under siege with no water, no food, no electricity, no heating, and no

communication with the outside world.

"I wore that shirt and read its message as more than two million shells fell on our heads and I dodged countless bullets, but 11,000 of my

neighbors didn't. The T-shirt says, "Sarajevo will be. Everything else will pass. Bad times are ahead of you, my friends. But weapons are being sent so

you can defend yourself the values you stand for.

"We Bosnians fought back then for the same values. But the world imposed an arms embargo on us. It did not understand what the fight was about in

Sarajevo. Thank God it understands now in Kyiv."

AMANPOUR: Yes, it's really powerful. And it is incredible when we all remember, when we went through and what you went through in Sarajevo, that

now it is engaged, and it is really important for all of our futures, for all of our history.

But I was also staggered by how the similarities -- I mean, the pictures are almost identical 30 years later, the women, the children, the civilian

infrastructure, the defenders.

But, just like Bosnians, you never believed that the Serbs were going to launch a war on you. And nor did the Ukrainians really believe that the

Russians were going to launch this war in such a big way.

What is it about -- about not believing the worst?

CERKEZ: I think you always think that this is going to happen to someone else, but not to me.

It's just -- I always quote my mother. When war started in Slovenia, she was watching it on TV, and she said, oh, thank God it's not here. This is

terrible. Then it came to Croatia. And she repeated the same sentence. Then it crossed over into Bosnia and was already in Bijeljina in Bosnia, but not

in Sarajevo. She still kept saying, my God, this is terrible. Thank God it's not here.

And then, at some point, it started. The shelling started just across the street on the building that we were facing. And I saw the smoke coming up.

And she said the same sentence again. Oh, my God. Thank God it's not here.

And that's when I realized, it's -- I guess it's a defense mechanism.


CERKEZ: You just don't want to believe it. Hope dies last.

The whole world saw what's going to happen in Ukraine. But the Ukrainians just, you can't comprehend it, just like Sarajevons.

AMANPOUR: And Aida, I'm also struck by, again, the repetition of this idea that the aggressor blames the victim. We hear over and over again that this

is -- from inside Russia that it is not the Russian forces that are bombing the civilians. Russian forces would never do that. In fact, it's Ukrainian

forces who are bombing their own civilians, the same story in Sarajevo. And it actually -- you know what, back then, it affected the world. They had

doubts about it. Do you remember that?

CERKEZ: Yes. And that's actually how we progressed. I remember that there that we didn't have any communication. There was no social media, nothing.

I didn't know what the world thinks. It was foreign journalists that came and told me, oh, Sarajevo was a Muslim stronghold. And by the way, you're a

Mujahideen. The first time they said that, I wasn't even angry because I didn't know what that was. But later, they explained to me. So, OK. I'm an

Islamic fighter, cool.

But that hurts. You know, it hurts more than the bullets, than the wounds, than the dead people, that really hurts. It's like genocide denial, that

happens here now. That will happen in Ukraine. Ukraine -- the Ukrainian war can stop tomorrow. It will take decades to convince the Russians that this

really took place. They will be in denial just like the Serbs are now in denial, and they're in denial because they really can't face it. They can't

because it's too horrible. Nobody wants to see himself like that.

AMANPOUR: You know --

CERKEZ: You know, the -- I don't know these lies. Who believes them anymore? Nobody. In Bosnia, they did. They were kind of, maybe it is, maybe

it isn't. Now, they learned.

AMANPOUR: That is a measure of progress, you're absolutely right. But you just mentioned, even now, the Bosnian/Serb republic, they're part of what

was, you know, carved up during the Dayton Peace Accords. Their prime minister is threatening to secede, he's supported by Serbia who is

supported by Russia. Serbia, I believe, is the only country in the sort of region that hasn't condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and there's

very real fears that all of this could trigger a conflict in Bosnia.

Are you feeling that? Are you worried about that?

CERKEZ: I feel the fear in people, but I'm not worried about that. I don't think that anybody really wants -- has the strength to fight the war. Maybe

it will -- you know, maybe skirmishes here or there, but eventually, you know, Christiane, I was just listening to the guest before me. Who wants to

live under such a regime? Is this really what they want, to live like that? Of course, the Ukrainians are fighting back. They don't want to live in

such a world like Putin created, like Milosevich created. Not even the Serbs or Russians want to live in such a world.

Maybe some of them don't know any better. Maybe they should be shown. But in general, you know, this is not very attractive. This is not a carrot.

This is not something worth fighting for. Actually, it's worth fighting against, and I think that will prevail.

AMANPOUR: Aida Cerkez, thank you so much. It's great to see you again, and as history repeats itself. Thank you.

Children, of course, are perhaps the most helpless victims of any war, their innocence ravaged by trauma as we're seeing every day now in Ukraine.

As I discovered in Sarajevo 30 years ago, children find ways to cope even in the most awful times, including perhaps especially through play.


AMANPOUR (voiceover): Children have always played cops and robbers, playing with guns is nothing new. Only here, the game has a horrible ring

of truth. The streets of Sarajevo are filled with children at war, firing their toy weapons, mounting their own guerrilla campaigns from the bushes.

Children don't go to school anymore, instead, they are teaching themselves a lesson in real life.

Playgrounds have been turned into battle grounds where they act out what goes on around them all the time, with frightening accuracy, right down to

treating their wounded. They do it with smiles and laughter, but they're not kidding themselves. They can't hide their fear.


I can't sleep properly at night. She says I'm afraid. I'm always waiting for the next shell to fall. Amila is 11 years old, she plays doctor, but

she knows that children are really being killed and injured in the relentless shelling of the city.

A visit to the hospital shows just how many children have been injured. A mortar round robbed this three-year-old of her leg and her father. A

mother's heart breaks as she watches over her 12-year-old son. Shrapnel tore off both his legs and an arm.

It's so hard, he says, and he wishes the war would end. But the ward is full of toy soldiers who have been drafted as runners between troops on the

real front lines who have paid dearly for the Bosnian army's lack of communications equipment.

Back where the war is still just a game, even those who can't know what's going on join in. These two haven't yet been told that their fathers were

killed on the front. Parents watch helplessly, unwilling to interfere, unable to provide their children with a better alternative.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): These games are just a reflection of our sad reality. The doors of hell have opened on Sarajevo. I

think this is the darkest place on the planet.

AMANPOUR (voiceover): And the darkest days of these young lives.


AMANPOUR: Real flashbacks there. And it's important to remember that Sarajevo never fell. It was outgunned, it was outmanned, but the defenders

kept up that fight. And that is the message that Aida Cerkez wants to give to the Ukrainians too.

Now, Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting Poland at a critical moment for Ukraine, Europe and the Biden administration. Our next guest is the

former undersecretary of defense, Michele Flournoy, who's close ties with the Clinton and Abama administration, as well as with Secretary of State

Antony Blinken. And she joined Walter Isaacson to discussed the impact this crisis will have on America's security interests, particularly when it

comes to China.


WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Michel Flournoy, welcome to the show.


ISAACSON: President Biden just announced that we're going to cut off Russian oil being brought into the United States. Can that be very

effective if China continues to buy it, and China resists these ideas of pushing back on Russia?

FLOURNOY: Well, I think the president's decision was the right one, but it is because we don't rely very much on Russian oil in the United States, it

is symbolic, but it also sets an example. And I think we've seen the Europeans follow with pledges to reduce their gas consumption by two-thirds

this year. And so, I do think it's important as a leadership move to sort of lead the international community in this direction given how important

oil and gas imports are to the Russian economy and the Russian state budget.

ISAACSON: Yes. But China, China just doesn't seem to be going along. Are these sanctions going to work if we can't get China a little bit more on

our side?

FLOURNOY: I do think the collective sanctions from the entire Transatlantic community and other countries in Asia will have a devastating

impact on the Russian economy. China has doubled down, which is sort of mysterious to me. I would think that given the failures that Putin is

experiencing in Ukraine, and what it's going to do to him, make him a pariah, I would think that President Xi would be thinking about distancing

himself from Putin. But for the moment, they're doubling down.

They will cushion some of the blow with buying wheat, buying oil and gas and so forth, but they're not going to be able to do that at the scale that

would really reduce the overall impact of the sanctions.

ISAACSON: President Biden sent you and Admiral Mike Mullen on a trip to Taiwan very recently to talk to the leaders of Taiwan. First of all, what

did you say to the leaders of Taiwan?

FLOURNOY: Well, our trip was designed to reassure the Taiwanese people and the Taiwanese authorities that, you know, the United States values them as

a democracy in the region, that they are valued as a very critical economic and technological partner and that, you know, they have a lot of support in

the international community.

Part of what this was in response to is we see China amplifying messages in Taiwanese social media that's basically trying to say, you know, today

Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan. Resistance is futile, you might as well give up on your democracy now because it's not going to last. And I think it was

very important for the United States to communicate both to Taiwan and to China that even though we're engaged in this crisis in Europe, we have not

taken our eye off the ball in the important situation in the Indo-Pacific.

ISAACSON: So, you see evidence that China might be using the Ukraine situation as a way to say, all right, now, we're going to put more pressure

on Taiwan. Perhaps even try to take over the governance of Taiwan. Is that right?


FLOURNOY: I certainly see them doing that in the information space, and they continue to violate, you know, Taiwan's air defense zone, and so

forth. I don't think we are seeing an imminent military move. President Xi has the 20th Party Congress coming up at the end of this year, he wants to

be made leader for life. He wants stability and calm this year, leading into that key political moment for him.

I worry more about after that. Once he turns to the question of his legacy. And I -- and he said very clearly, he wants to be the leader who reunites

China. I worried more about the mid to long-term future with regard to Taiwan.

ISAACSON: China expected that the Biden administration would reset a bit to use a phrase policy towards China after the very strong anti-China

message of the Trump administration, and yet that hasn't happened. The Biden administration sent more deployments, military deployments to the

South China Sea. What's the rationale of continuing this fight against China?

FLOURNOY: The rationale is the change in Chinese behavior. When we saw Xi come into power, they really dropped their prior stance of which many

analysts called hide and bide. You know, sort of hide your true intentions and ambitions and bide your time.

When Xi came in, China began to really flex its muscle as a rising power. It began to take much more coercive actions in the East China Sea, vis-a-

vis Japan and disputed islands there, in the South China Sea via a number of countries. And also, just more aggressive actions with regard to the

United States as well.

So, you know, I think the administration has responded to their actions and they're somewhat limited by the degree to which China is willing to back

off some of those aggressive actions. I think there's also a very strong bipartisan consensus about the threat that China poses to us economically,

technologically, militarily, even ideologically, in terms of the contest between authoritarian and democratic systems, and that is both great

support for the administration when it wants to take moves but also a certain degree of constraint in terms of how far they can move outside that

consensus when engaging China.

So, I think if we want to see a change in U.S. policy, we need to see a change in China's behavior. That's the bottom line.

What do you need to see?

FLOURNOY: I think you need to see, you know, China come to the table on trade in a much more productive way, willing to sort of address some of

their practices that distort -- you know, that deny others, including the United States a level --

ISAACSON: Well, wait. Let me push back on that. We're facing an existential threat with Russia invading a country in Europe and we have

trade disputes with China? It seems this is a misbalance of calculation.

FLOURNOY: Well, the source of our economic power is our economy and our economic foundation. And when we're trying to -- we have a deep economic

relationship with, you know, the largest -- the second largest economy in the world, we have to have some rules that govern that. We have to have

China abiding by the rules it signed up to for the World Trade Organization.

So, yes, I understand, you know, there's -- it's a totally different situation from the crisis in Ukraine. But the U.S. has to be able to deal

with the Russia crisis and also protect its interests in, you know, the region of the world that is going to affect our security and our prosperity

more than any other in the next half century.

ISAACSON: I was just in Houston for the Sarah Energy Conference, and they were saying -- we're talking about two or three years of this war. Do you

agree that that's a possibility?

FLOURNOY: I think it's many months, possibly years. I think a lot will depend on what happens in the next several weeks. You've seen this tank

column that was supposed to encircle Kyiv very quickly depose the government, put a friendly government in and depart. Well, that plan A

didn't work so well for Putin. You now have another column coming in to back them up. But there's a debate in the analyst community about whether

the Russians can even pull that off.

If they do pull it off, it's going to be a longer war. If they can't pull it off, this may, you know, culminate in months rather than years. So, we

will have to see and pray on behalf of the Ukrainian people that it ends sooner rather than later.

ISAACSON: Well, you seem to be saying we should do more than pray, we should be helping our NATO allies send in, what, stinger missiles, send in

planes and to what extent do we send those in?


FLOURNOY: Well, I think we should be sending in everything the Ukrainians need particularly antitank weapons like the javelins as well as stingers.

They have requested MiG-29s, which some of our former Soviet bloc states who are now part of NATO have. The challenge there is, you know, where

would you operate them, how would you support them and make them operational, but I think we should try to help them solve that problem

because, you know, those aircraft can be very effective in defending the skies when you do have a humanitarian corridor trying to evacuate


If armed correctly, they can also be very effective against massed tank columns, like the one outside Kyiv. So, I think we need to bend over

backwards to help the Ukrainians as much as possible, and on a sustained basis because, again, this is not going to be over anytime soon.

ISAACSON: We need to help them solve that problem, you just said, the problem of not being able to use MiG fighters without support from the

West, and how to do it. What do you mean we have to help them? Does that mean sending in U.S. military advisers?

FLOURNOY: No, I don't think we should actually cross the line in send in U.S. troops or NATO troops, because I do -- Putin has been very clear, he

would see that as NATO becoming a combatant in the conflict, and then we risk a much wider, more catastrophic war in Europe and the risk of nuclear

escalation, which Putin has already put on the table. So, no.

But, you know, I do think there are plenty of opportunities. You know, we have trained with the Ukrainians a lot since 2014. They are a very

different force than they were before the Putin seizure of Crimea. So, I think there's, you know, supplying them with weapons and maybe some

planning, and as much intelligence, as much real-time intelligence on what -- where the Russian forces are, where -- what they're doing, that's the

best way we can help them right now.

ISAACSON: You've been a longtime friend and partner of the now secretary of state, Antony Blinken. He said he went to Europe -- NATO allies in the

past few days and said, not one inch of NATO. Not one inch will we allow the Russians to take. Do you think it's now conceivable that Putin would

try to move further than Ukraine and go into Poland or a NATO country?

FLOURNOY: I don't think Putin would be wise to do that. I think he's having trouble consolidating his -- you know, even executing his campaign

in Ukraine. I think it would be a real stretch for him to come into NATO territory. But I do think there are a couple of risks that I'm guessing the

secretary was referring to. One is you now have NATO aircraft patrolling the skies over the border. You have Russian aircraft operating in close


Whenever you have opposing military forces up against each other, there's risk of some kind of accident, unintended, you know, transgression. And

that can escalate into something, especially if lives are lost. It's one of the reasons why the administration reached out to Moscow and established

this line of communication to try to manage a situation like that should it occur.

The other risk is that if we do continue to supply the Ukrainians from NATO territory, at some point, Putin may decide, you know, I'm going to stop

that, and he may go after a convoy or what have you, and make the mistake of hitting the convoy in NATO territory, rather than Ukrainian territory.

And that could, again, set off a discussion within NATO about whether, you know, this constitutes, you know, merits a strong response or what kind of

strong response it merits.

ISAACSON: Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy, has called for a no-fly zone, which, unfortunately, is a bit of a sanitized phrase, meaning send in in

your aircraft to shoot down Russian aircraft. The president said, no way we're going to do that. Is there any wiggle room in that argument about

whether or not we should engage in making the skies over Ukraine safe from Russian forces?

FLOURNOY: Well, I do think the alternative is supplying the aircraft to the Ukrainian pilots who know how to fly them. The problem with the no-fly

zone, first of all, it's limited in its coverage. It's really an air-to-air measure unless you authorize the aircraft to hit targets on the ground,

which of course in this case would be entering into a direct conflict with Russia.

But the mortars, artillery shells, rockets, longer range missiles that Russia is using to pulverize Ukrainian cities would not be stopped by a no-

fly zone. But I think -- but what the president is saying is, you know, if you have NATO aircraft engaging Russian air craft, NATO has entered the

war. That is combat. That is entering the war, and that is the line he's trying not to cross to keep this from escalating and widening across



ISAACSON: In order to replace the Russian oil, I mean, we're hitting $4 a gallon, even in Louisiana, down here. And I know up where you are, it's $5

and sometimes $6 a gallon. We have turn to Venezuela and tried to restore somewhat a very bad relationship with Venezuela. Biden's administration has

tried hard to make better contacts with the Saudis who we have not had good relationships with under the Biden administration.

Do you think we now have to real quickly figure out ways to deal more closely with the Saudis and maybe Venezuela?

FLOURNOY: You know, I think the administration is pulling out all the stops to try to replace the Russian oil that will be taken off the market

to try to, you know, stabilize prices. Another example of this is, you know, I don't think this is going to be the reason we get an Iran deal, but

I think we are very close in the negotiations to getting constraints reimposed on Iran's nuclear weapons program. And --

ISAACSON: Would that open up oil from Iran?

FLOURNOY: And if that did, that would open up their ability to export at least some of their oil. And that --

ISAACSON: Are you worried that if we do that people will say, we made a bad Iran deal in order to get oil?

FLOURNOY: Yes. I mean, there's -- I'm sure that there are folks who will be critical of the administration and make that argument. The truth is the

deal was coming to fruition before this crisis happened. But the secondary implication is that there may be some additional oil on the market. So, you

know, I think the administration is in the process of exploring all of the options, nothing's been decided with Venezuela. Nothing has been finalized

with regard to Iran. So, we'll have to see.

I do think the best approach is to go to our partners in the Gulf, OPEC, and say, you know, can you increase production to make up for this, to

stabilize the price of oil globally?

ISAACSON: This is war, if it goes on for a year or two years, will be a total disaster. So, there needs to be some off ramp. There needs to be a

way to say, all right, let's all come to some conclusion. Do you see any possible solution or off ramp that the Russians could possibly accept and

that we and the Ukrainians could accept?

FLOURNOY: You know, I think that remains to be seen. I don't want to rule it out. I think much of it depends on what the Ukrainian people decide that

they can live with. Can they live with saying, OK, we're, you know, Crimea is yours or can they live with saying, you know, we're going to be a

neutral country, like Finland or Switzerland, can they live with some kind of different status for the eastern most provinces.

But I think it's -- you know, if we really want to support democracy and Ukraine's sovereignty, we have to start with what are the Ukrainians

willing to accept here. They're the victims in this conflict, and they're the ones we're trying to support. I think a lot of it will depend on

whether Putin comes to the realization that his maximalist games -- his maximalist objectives are completely unrealistic, and he has to pull back

in terms of his goals.

ISAACSON: Do you think that's possible? Do you think he's rational enough to do that?

FLOURNOY: I think he -- I don't know, but I think that at some point he will risk creating enough internal discontent both at the sort of grass

roots level. We're remarkably seeing protests about this war already in Russia, and among his elite, the oligarchs who support him. That is a very

dangerous combination for any authoritarian leader. You know, you're the historian. In history, that combination is when dictators tend to lose

their jobs if not their lives.

So, I think if that really ramps up because of the sanctions, and because Russia is not succeeding on the ground in Ukraine, you know, you could have

Putin change his calculus to try to save himself, but we are a very long way from that point, and that is pure speculation on my part. I don't think

it's the likely scenario at this point but it's not impossible as this drags on.

ISAACSON: Michele Flournoy, thank you so much for joining us.

FLOURNOY: Thank you, Walter. Good to speak with you.


AMANPOUR: And finally, as history repeats itself in Europe, Antarctica is discovering some of its own, after 106 years, the great explorer Ernest

Shackleton's sunken ship endurance has been found, an autonomous underwater vehicle recorded the moment of discovery, bringing an end to the world's

most challenging ship wreck search.


When attempting to complete the first land crossing of the Antarctica in 1915, the Endurance was crushed by pack ice. Shackleton and his 28 crew

members set off on foot with three lifeboats in toe, eventually reaching South Georgia Island in the Atlantic Ocean. Remarkably, everyone survived.

Now, Endurance is preserved beyond imagination, they say. The wreck is protected by the Antarctic treaty and will remain in its watery grave.

That's it for now. And if you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. Remember, you can also find

us online and across social media.

Thanks for watching, and good-bye from London.